As an individual ages, muscles become weaker, coordination more problematic, and reaction times tend to lag. For some elderly people, the inability to retain one’s sense of balance can presage a dangerous situation – one in three adults 65 and older falls each year and older adults are hospitalized for fall-related injuries five times more often than they are for injuries from other causes.
For these older adults, common-sense ways to prevent falls abound. For getting around, a cane or a walker can help steady one’s gait and add leverage for getting up and sitting down. When balance issues become severe, a wheelchair may be employed, greatly reducing the chances of a sudden fall. Seniors who have mobility challenges while living in a multi-story home should investigate the possibilities of installing a stairlift.
There are many ways in which home modifications can also prevent the type of accident due to decreased strength and poor balance. Handrails are wall fixtures that provide support and stability. When properly mounted, they are able to bear the weight of a person when walking, rising, bending over, or standing up. They can be installed in any number of areas in the home, including: on the staircase, alongside the bed, near living-room furniture, in the kitchen, and even in the garage where a handrail can be reached through an open car door.
Bathrooms are particularly dangerous places. Up to 80 percent of falls in the home are in the bathroom. While anyone can stumble and fall in the bathroom, having poor muscle strength and balance is strongly associated with increased risk. Most falls occur while:
• Getting in and out of the tub or showers
• Sitting down and getting up from the toilet, and
• Walking and attempting to use towel bars, sink tops or other objects to support balance.
In addition, there are certain environmental features or hazards that add to the risk of falling. These include:
• Insufficiently secured towel racks that could fall when gripped for support
• Shower chairs that are not slip resistant
• Bathtubs that are difficult to step into and out of
• Sliding shower doors that could move unexpectedly when entering and exiting the tub
• Slippery bathtub and shower floor surfaces
• Slippery floor tiles, especially when wet, and
• Low toilets heights that are difficult to get up from easily.
Luckily, bathrooms can be modified to decrease the risk of accident. Grab bars added to the bathroom provide a great measure of safety. They can be installed above the bathtub, in the shower cubicle and just outside it, next to the wash basin, and beside the toilet. Other bathroom modifications include: bath benches and shower chairs, raised toilet seats, and in some cases more complex bath lifts and bathroom transfer systems.
Seniors with balance issues should also consider investing in better lighting throughout their homes, and especially on their staircases. Poorly lit areas make it harder for individuals to distinguish where steps start and end and this can lead to insecure footing, causing falls or slips.
Another way to prevent falls is to make sure that all rugs in the house are slip-proofed by having them secured to the floor with double-sided tape. In addition, seniors who are prone to falling because of poor balance or weak muscles should always wear rubber-soled, low-heeled shows that fully support their weight. Wearing only socks or smooth-soled shoes on stairs or waxed floors can be unsafe.
At Pacific Mobility, we not only have the best products available, we have the experience and expertise to help you address your mobility challenges based on your individual needs and within your budget. Call or visit us today and we will be happy to serve you.
President, Husband, Father, Grandfather Graduate of UC Davis- Bio Sci Major- Go Aggies! Jeff has extensive experience in all of Pacific Mobility’s products and services, and specializes in accessibility products as well as stairlifts, ceiling lifts and custom wheel chairs. His hobbies include spending time with family, gardening, mountain biking, exercising and off road motorcycle riding.
24 years as Owner/President of Pacific Mobility Center – selling, installing, and servicing stairlifts, porch lifts, ceiling lifts, pool lifts, handicap ramping, specialty wheelchairs, scooters, power wheel chairs, and other power mobility devices
Certified Environmental Access Consultant since 2008
Licensed General Contractor since 1998
Certified Aging in Place Specialist since 2016
Board Member for Home Access Professionals
Member of Association of Members of the Accessibility Equipment Industry (AEMA)